Fighting Temeraire

The BFD

This book by the American historian Robert K Massie is the story of the War at Sea during WW1. It is the sister volume to his previous work, Dreadnought, which is the story of the naval arms race between the UK and Germany in the lead up to that war.

It covers all the major engagements at sea, starting with the defeat of the British at Coronel by the East Asiatic Squadron under Spee and then the RN’s revenge at the Battle of the Falklands.

His description of the major battles in the North Sea are superb. You can almost feel the heave of the deck under your feet and smell the coal dust and cordite.

To my mind, the whole book reads more like a fast-paced naval fiction than a serious history. Early in the book is a passage written by Churchill as he describes the voyage of the Grand Fleet from Portland to Scapa Flow, and it is from part of this passage that the title of the book is taken. The passage ends with “… and the King’s ships were at sea”

A good read and an important book for anyone interested in naval history

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